Do Not Knock

Reporter: Tineka Everaardt

It may be understated but one tiny sticker packs an almighty punch.

"Companies can be fined up to $50,000 for each instance of illegal door selling and also over one million dollars if they mislead consumers", said Delia Rickard, Acting chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

New laws mean these 'do not knock' signs have become a protective barrier around houses across Australia. "The fact that we've already had a one million dollar fine I think sends significant warning bells to boardrooms", Delia added.

Glenn Whitfield is one of many Aussies used to slamming the door on sales people. "They disturb the peace; it's like having a phone call and trying to get them off the phone. If they're on the doorstep it's harder to get rid of", Glenn said.

He's not alone -- every household in Australia is door knocked on average eight times a year according to an ACCC report. The energy industry is the biggest offender with 1 million sales conducted on the door steps of homes, then its telecommunications and solar panel companies, followed by pay TV providers.

Dr Paul Harrison is the Unit Chair of Consumer Behavior and Advertising at Deakin University. He says "It happens in a place where people are probably at their least guarded, because it's in your home, in your private space. So knocking on your door, getting you at a time when you're not ready to interact with a sales person is a really affective way to get people to buy your product".

The Energy and Water Ombudsman in each state have been inundated by calls: In Victoria between October and December last year there were 501 door-to-door marketing complaints -- that's a 55% increase on the first quarter of 2012.

During the same period in New South Wales there were 293 complaints up 3% and in Queensland last year there were 69 complaints.

"In 2012 we were still seeing those complaints so we started taking legal action. The first of those actions to go through those courts was Neighbourhood Energy and Australian Green Credits", Delia said.

In the landmark case the Federal Court found the two companies guilty of ignoring 'do not knock' signs, along with engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct, ordering them to pay one million dollars.

It's no wonder providers Energy Australia and AGL are axing intrusive door knockers to win back customers.

"We're looking to the rest of the industry to step up and follow their lead", said Consumer Action Law Centre Senior Campaigner Sarah Wilson.

Sarah explains there are strict rules on when door knockers can bother you. "There are only certain times of day when someone can knock on your door to try and sell you a product and service. They can come between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am and 5pm on a Saturday. They can't visit you on a public holiday or a Sunday", Sarah said.

But Glen Whitfield claims many brash marketers ignore his sticker saying they didn't knock, they rang the bell.

In that case Sarah Wilson says take down the name of their company. "You can report that to us via the 'do not knock website' and we pass that on to the relevant authorities seeking enforcement action".

For further information:

Consumer Action Law Centre's do not knock website: http://donotknock.org.au/

For free do not knock stickers: phone: 1300 302 502 or visit the website at: www.accc.org.au